There will be thousands of memorial editorials and commentaries concerning the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, our generation’s “Day of Infamy.” This is not one of them.
In my Wednesday, September 7 column in the Columbia Missourian, I talk about how the terrorists winning – How America still lives under the twin umbrellas of fear and paranoia.
What I do not talk about is the source of the current fear and paranoia. I do not talk about those who feed and perpetuate those fears: The political activist of the Christian right-wing right-wingers.
Not all politically conservative Christians and certainly not all Christians. More specifically, I am focusing on apocalyptic, fundamentalist and apologetic Christians who have made it their political mission to turn our war against terrorism in to a holy war against Islam.
It is also their collective mission to make the United States a “theocratic democracy,” not unlike pre-19th century England but more stringent as to its “membership” and ruled by religious leaders. A bit like today’s Iran.
That fight has crept its way into American politics, confounding and confusing our European allies and friends who do not understand why the United States has become so intensely religious. In three words, the answer is “Fear and Paranoia.”
In the days that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and downing of Flight 92, ours was not a fight against all Muslims or Arabs or any other religious of ethnic group. President Bush said so, and we believed him. The fight was specifically against a relatively small extremist group of outcast Muslims, who were bend on world domination. As with extremists in any religion, they used their holy book, in this case the Holy Qur’an, to justify their end.
In the days that followed the attacks Arab and Muslim nations, with only a few exceptions, supported the United States in condemning al-Qaeda. The real exceptions were the people of those nations who belonged to fundamentalist and radical mosques who marched and cheered at the destruction of the heart of the United States military and financial systems.
But their reactions were not unlike the rallies by those of the fundamentalist, evangelical and apocalyptic orthodox Christians who marched and jeered against the Islamic centers to be built in New York, Tennessee and elsewhere in the United States. Same rallies, same anger, same fervor, different religions.
Different religions who believe in the same God, who acknowledge Yusuf of Nazareth as a great prophet (one more strongly than the other), and who use the same fundamentalism, fear and paranoia to arm against the other.
Neither of these extreme religious followings is living to the words of peace and acceptance of all people that their prophets, Jesus and Mohammed, taught their followers.
The idea of the wars in Afghanistan and later Iraq were religious wars was accelerated when President Bush mistakenly (though some will argued that the language was purposeful) called our battle against the new enemy foreign and domestic a “crusade” on September 16, 2001 during a question and answer session on the front lawn of the White House. New York Times’ columnist Jackson Lears noted in his March 11, 2003 column that GWB’s reference to “doing God’s will” in various speeches equated to the conducting a religious war against Muslims. A Crusade.
Commentators from the right and left, beginning in 2002, started to call the wars in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq, the “Tenth” or “Twelfth” Crusade, depending on how the crusades are defined and counted. Alexander Cockburn’s “The Tenth Crusade” asked if the wars were really against terrorism. He concluded with this statement:
Islamic fanatics flew those planes a year ago, and here we are with a terrifying alliance of Judeo-Christian fanatics, conjoined in their dream of the recovery of the Holy Land. War on Terror? It’s back to the thirteenth century, picking up where Prince Edward left off with the ninth crusade.
James Pinkertons’ Newsday column “Centuries In, Centuries Out – It’s Crusade Time Again” (reprinted by the New American Foundation) explains why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be considered the Twelfth Crusade. “The British occupied Egypt in 1882; call that the Tenth Crusade. Then, after World War I, the British and French colonized most of the Middle East — the Eleventh Crusade.” I understand and agree with his analysis.
Our collective fear is that those following these politically religious-zealots will corrupt the American government, a secular government that has paved the way for religious freedom, by electing these zealots as heroes. They are not.
I have argued in the past and continue today that those touting their religion as a qualifier for elected offices are violating Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution, that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” I am arguing again today that the use of one’s religion as a campaign tool is in fact using religion as a qualifier and, therefore, a violation of the Constitution. They have made a conviction to Christianity as a qualifier to hold public office.
This is not an anti-religion or anti-Christian column. It is a column of warning and concern. If the American people continue to allow religion to be used as a campaign tool, any religion, we are in danger of becoming a religious based government. Those who are not members of the ruling religious class will become the enemy of that class. And once they are deemed and hunted down as enemies, nonbelievers. The United States will become the home of the Thirteenth Crusade and a reawakening of Inquisition.
Religious fanaticism regardless of the sect or denomination, regardless of the country or religion, is the same. It seeks the domination of first their nation and next the world to their extreme fundamentalist beliefs. In Afghanistan it was the Taliban. Worldwide it is the various groups associated with al-Qaeda.
America can no longer live in the filth of fear and paranoia used to promulgate a religious political agenda. America should not and cannot become what we fear most – a Theocratic Totalitarian nation.